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Viacom Launches BET Online-Subscription Service Outside U.S., Italy, France and Africa

Viacom is launching BET Play, a $4-per-month subscription service with programming from the African-American entertainment cable channel, in about 100 countries — but not in the U.S. or a few other markets, where the media conglom doesn’t want to cannibalize its pay-TV biz or is precluded from offering a direct-to-consumer service.

BET Play is available for Apple iOS and Google Android devices for a subscription fee of $3.99 a month, with a fee seven-day trial. Customers can also play content on Apple TV via AirPlay.

It’s the second direct-to-consumer subscription VOD from Viacom, after the launch last year of Noggin, a $5.99 monthly service for preschoolers.

But BET Play won’t be available to consumers in the U.S., Italy, France or Africa. It’s likely that in those territories, Viacom’s carriage agreements with pay-TV distributors disallow it from delivering a standalone service with the same content on its linear channels.

The launch of the BET Play streaming app is timed to coincide with the 2016 BET Awards on Sunday, June 26. The live kudocast will feature returning hosts Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross and performances by artists including Alicia Keys and Maxwell and a tribute to Prince with performances by Sheila E., The Roots, D’Angelo and Janelle Monae.

“For people around the world who love black culture, BET Play will enable fans to access our content when and where they want it,” Debra Lee, chairman and CEO of BET Networks, said in announcing the launch.

In the States, Viacom offers BET Now, an authenticated app that lets pay-TV customers sign in to access content, as well as similar apps for its other channels.

BET Play, operated by Viacom International Media Networks, provides access to the cable channel’s award shows, current and past TV series, documentaries, stand-up comedy, entertainment news and musical performances.

Programming on the service includes “Being Mary Jane” starring Gabrielle Union (pictured above), “Real Husbands of Hollywood” starring Kevin Hart, “Chasing Destiny” starring Kelly Rowland, “Zoe Ever After” starring Brandy Norwood, and classic interviews from “106 & Park.” In addition, BET Play includes digital short-form original series such as “#BLX.” Live programming will include the BET Awards, BET Hip Hop Awards and the Soul Train Awards.

The BET Play app also features a live linear feed of BET Soul, a music channel covering genres including R&B, neo soul, alternative soul, classic soul, relative hip hop, and Caribbean music.

Viacom International launched Viacom Play Plex in November 2015 as an authenticated service for brands including MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Channel and Comedy Central. BET Play is the first direct-to-consumer offering from the Viacom Play Plex Suite of mobile TV apps.

To date, Viacom’s Play Plex apps have launched in more than 40 markets, have been downloaded more than 8 million times and delivered 150 million streams, according to the company.

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